Cheryl Douglas, $0.99
Contemporary Romance, 2019
Despite the title and the guy on the cover, Cheryl Douglas’s Game Over is not a romantic suspense or a romance featuring guys of an MC club that are lining up to run a train on the heroine under the name of love. It is, in fact, a small town romance.
Deke is a tattoo artist, but don’t worry, he isn’t poor or anything like that. In fact, he’s super loaded thanks to his real estate skills, and he lives in a big house and pulls all the women into his fan club. When his brother leaves his son Drew in Deke’s care as the man goes off to do his military thing, Deke isn’t sure how to deal with the brat. Fortunately, his teenage sweetheart Harper is back in town. Predictably, she’s broke because heaven forbid a romance heroine has funds of her own, and she’s in need of a job. Since she’s a woman, she’d be perfect as Drew’s nanny! Despite Deke being Harper’s first everything, she still isn’t sure about him as the man broke up with him shortly after she went to college, that creep, but don’t worry, no conflict here lasts more than a few pages at most, and things go swimmingly from start to finish.
That’s the standout issue I have with this one: there isn’t much of a conflict between Deke and Harper. They talk out their issues quickly after they meet again, and the bulk of the story sees them basically going all ooh-he’s-so-sexy, ooh-she’s-so-hot, ooh-she’s-so-good-at-being-a-nanny, etc. The main “complication” late in the story is that Harper doesn’t believe that they will last past the summer, and come on, surely the author doesn’t expect me to be at the edge of my seat because of that.
Both main characters are likable and on the whole sensible types, perhaps too sensible because it’s hard to buy that these two would even break up in the first place. I like Deke, but I can never buy this “bad boy, but rich and nice” image of him that the author is trying to sell me. He’s just some ordinary guy – perhaps hotter and richer than some ordinary guy, but still – that a woman can easily fall for, so the author’s efforts to dress Deke up as a bad boy feels like a contrived effort to conform to some formula that a writing guru insisted would help move a zillion copies of this title.
Drew is annoying, but that’s likely just me – you know how I feel about kids in stories that act like precious plot devices.
The romance, like the main characters, are pleasant and charming at times, but I’ve already come across this type of relationship many times before. The author doesn’t offer any interesting or fresh spin here, aside from our main characters having tattoos as a concession to the 21st century, and as a result I never feel emotionally invested in the story. Game Over is an easy, relaxed, mostly drama-free read without trying too hard to stand out from the rest. It’s alright, in other words, and it’s content to be just that.